Expats in China dismayed by changes in Uber

Published:  14 Nov at 6 PM
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Expats living and working in China are shocked by the withdrawal of Uber’s dual-language app. The Uber International dual language app has been a lifesaver for Western expats attempting to negotiate the tangle of streets making up most of China’s major cities without having to learn Mandarin Chinese.

Basically, Uber International cannot now be used within China, and its replacement, Uber China, doesn’t work anywhere else on the planet. Uber China only uses the Chinese language, and will not recognise destinations entered in English, although English language locations stored in its search suggestions may still be accessible.

Expat users will now need to know their destination, and possibly its full address, in the original Chinese. Given that Uber was a necessity for expats’ travel around their cities of residence, the withdrawal of Uber International has caused chaos for the vast majority who can’t cope in Chinese.

Even for those able to provide the correct Chinese details, methods of payment for the service have also changed. Uber China will, according to its website, accept the mobile payment services AliPay, Baidu Wallet and also payments using UnionPay cards. Foreign credit cards, apparently, cannot be used, including Visa and Mastercard cards issued by Chinese banks. It’s also not clear whether UnionPay cards issued outside the country will be accepted.

For visitors arriving and wishing to set up Uber, as well as for those already living in China and using the service, an update will be necessary. The Uber China update can only be had at Chinese-language app stores, with 360 and Wandoulia recommended. Visitors, however, will need to get a Chinese mobile number in order to update to Uber China. For long-stayers, perhaps this is the time to concentrate on learning the local language, if only to be able to travel without getting regularly lost.

For a good number of expats in China, it’s going to be back to basics as regards getting around. Taxis can be booked via shopping malls, hotels and most office buildings. The local ride-sharing service app Didi can be useful, but local transport is a language -based. major hassle for the majority of expats. Rumours stating the change has been made as a deliberate effort to block foreign usage are being negated by Uber’s info as regards reinstating the English app some time next year. We can only hope.
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